Operation Rebuild Hope
After loosing Rockstar, Trystin hopped on a bus and headed back to Tennessee. He continued his journey and started walking, only now, for the first time he was… truly alone. A few months passed and Trystin received a phone call from a social media follower while visiting Abingdon, VA; a women he had met when he had lived in Abingdon, before he was on foot. She asked Trystin his location, Trystin told her, the women told him to stay there, she had something for him and “Do Not Leave!!” Shortly after, a van pulled up, and asks “Hey, are you Trystin”? “Umm Yeah”? Tristen replied. The stranger says “Cool, this is for you”, and handed him an eight week old puppy and drove away. Needless to say, Trystin was confused, annoyed, and a little resentful towards this new puppy.
Resent turned into respect, love, loyalty, and a bond that will never be broken. Little Brother mended his broken heart; they both gained a life-long best friend.
During our interview Trystin struggled talking about Rockstar. I could tell how how important he was to Trystin. When we began talking about Little Brother you could hear the pride in his voice for the dog he never wanted or asked for who had become the best and unexpected friend he could have. No other dog will ever experience the initiation to homelessness or becoming home free, the journey and adventure, the rain and cold, the walking and hitchhiking, or the panhandling and begging like Little Brother did with Trystin.
“The road is brutal, yet beautiful. You can experience every emotion capable in a 20 minute period. You can go from hate to love to depression to fucking elation in no time, and when you least expect it, everything, every single thing comes together”. -Trystin
Patrick is a United State Marine Corp Veteran. Over the next few days I will share how his life was shaped and has forever changed. And how hitting rock bottom and finding himself homeless gave him new perspective. Just seeing someone does not give you insight into their life, so judging them from their outer appearance is unjustifiable. Seeing a person as another human being and talking to them as such is the best way to learn of their trials and tribulations. #rehumanizingthehomeless
While his brothers were dreaming of one day winning the lottery and becoming filthy rich, Patrick was just a boy dreaming of helping the homeless.
In 2016, he made that dream a reality and started a nonprofit organization called @operationrebuildhope (ORH). Since the inception of ORH, he and his team, have helped 15+ homeless veterans get off the streets, seek rehabilitation if needed, and get proper mental health treatment. ORH has helped 100s of people in their community by improving those individuals living situation by replacing/mending roofs, construction, installing wheel chair ramps, lawn maintenance, etc.
A year ago, ORH acquired a home that had fallen in disrepair. It had been abandoned for years and wasn’t far from being torn down. Patrick had a vision. He wanted to convert this disheveled building into a home that would house homeless veterans and help them get back on their feet. Not just single male veterans like so many other programs, but females, families, and disabled veterans too.
To honor a Gold Star member and family, he named this house Bryan’s Home, after his long time friend Bryan Bertrand. Lance Cpl. Bertrand died in a plane crash in Pakistan along with 6 other Marines in January 2002. He was one of the first in his community to sacrifice his life after 9/11.
Although covid-19 has stalled funding, some projects and has pushed back the grand opening, Bryan’s Home is scheduled to begin housing homeless veterans in October 2020.
The path of the future is always unknown. For the homeless, the unknown is much more than that. “Where will I lay my head at tonight?” Or even “Where will I get my next meal from?” My Nomad friend here never stayed in one place longer than 3 days. He not only had to find food for himself, but also his four legged traveling companion Little Brother.
A warm and delicious meal can mean so much to someone that hasn’t eaten in a few days.
Nomad has come to “The Fork in the Tracks”, one path leads him on the continued life of the road and the other leads him to roots in a small town with a home to call his own. He hasn’t found the home yet, but he is beginning to plants some roots and is making connections within his new community.
“Combat is absolutely an addiction. My first full hard hit [was when] we [went] in to get these high value targets. We were coming in in 8 [loaded] Humvee’s. All 8 vehicles pull up, drop us off into our staging area, & then leave the area to cordon the area to provide covering fire. Meanwhile we have air [support] coming in, with helicopters over head laying down protection fire & trying to make sure no one is running away. [While] we are throwing flash bangs & smoke & we’re shooting and people are shooting at us. People are dropping here & there, you’re calling in medi-vacs. Then at the end you’re like, we got the bad guys & I’m alive…
You will never get any rush in your entire life like that, nobody can ever reach that level unless you’ve been there.” ~Patrick
Combat is a high that no drug could ever reach. It’s a rush that no drug could ever make you feel. Once you’ve had a taste for it, you crave the high & rush you’ve had before.
No bungee cord jumping, no skydiving, no nothing that you can do will ever give you that type of rush. And the rush is absolutely addicting. I was hooked at my first hard hit in 2003 & that’s why I went back in 05 & 07”. ~Patrick
Not everyone that serves in the military is made for combat, it’s not a situation that everyone can mentally prepare for, let alone mentally handle while there. Many service members will NEVER see combat, but for the ones that do & survive, there is a greater chance they will develop PTSD.
While Patrick was in country he said that was when he felt the most normal. He was understood there. He didn’t have to explain himself or answer questions about why he was there, everyone already knew. Back home people didn’t understand him.
“You’re like a God over there. The locals that don’t want to kill you, absolutely love you. They just want to be in the presence of an American. It’s crazy because we would be ambushed & blown up on one block, drive down [to] hand out water on the next block, go do a hard hit or cordon & knock on another block, then you’re playing soccer in the street with kids 3 blocks away from where you just got ambushed.”~Patrick
This series is an epic journey of homeless & nomadic Veterans and their life on the streets. Some choose the life of a nomad for the freedom and adventure. While others have struggled with civilian life and addiction ends up consuming them. When we see these individuals on the streets, we should not turn in disgust because we don’t understand. Instead we can simply acknowledge them as human beings. They may just need a hand up. They may just need someone to believe in them again.
I dedicate this image to all the lost souls out there that have made it through the darkness and have come out on top.
For those that are still struggling with the darkness, just know that you are not alone. Reach out to someone and take a step forward.
You can become homeless over night if you so choose. But becoming un-homeless takes a lot more effort and determination. You have to build your way up from the ground. Starting with a good foundation is key. My new friend Nomad here has teamed up with @operationrebuildhope to help him build that foundation. As they help him, he helps them by volunteering 22 hours a week at Bryan’s Home or other projects in the community. Veterans Helping Veterans.
Homeless individuals go unseen because they aren’t part of society’s “norms”. Living on the streets is no easy task. Whether you choose to be there or find yourself in an unfortunate situation. We are still human beings, some needing more assistances than others, but all of us deserve respect.
When I started this process I was told I needed to speak with Patrick Wright of @operationrebuildhope because “he is doing great things for our community.” So I tracked him down at Bryan’s Home and delivered some food items I had collected for Thanksgiving meals they were sharing with the community. I spoke to him and Angie about my plans and they were very supportive, they were even more excited to learn I was a veteran also.
Little did I know a few months later they would be sitting next to me in my marketing class. I shared with them my idea for my photography project that I had been wanting to do and Patrick jumped on it, like a fly on shit. ? He set something up for me and I met with and photographed a veteran named Nomad. (He is my “Lost Soul” image)
Some people talk about all the things that should be done, but Patrick is out DOING the things that NEED to be done. I think our paths have crossed for a reason and I hope my project will help the homeless veteran community understand that we aren’t here to judge your shortcomings, but here to re-humanize you in society. We see you and we are offing you a hand up.
An Army Veteran who found himself homeless mulitple time. Currently appling the guidance of Opeartion Rebuild Hope to rebuild his own life. He is the first occupant of Bryan’s Home and continuing to utilize the tools being offered to him.
A survivor of a lifetime of abuse. A lifetime of doubt. And a lifetime of not feeling good enough. But she has a strength not many people would recognize and a light that shines brighter than many can fathom.